At THQ's recent Loaded event, we had an opportunity to go hands-on with the E3 demo of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360. The game will also be a launch title for the PlayStation 3 and, with 2006 being Sonic's 15-year anniversary, it seems Sega are hoping to celebrate in style. The demo we played was less than 50% complete, and even though it was clear Sega has a lot of work to do, the game clearly has the potential to be a triumphant return for the crazy blue hedgehog.
When the main menu loaded there was a choice between Silver the Hedgehog's level or Sonic's. Being the traditionalists we are, we chose to control Sonic first. The first thing we realised is the controls at the moment are extremely sensitive - when you're running across the land it becomes a little too easy to fall off a chasm. The Sonic level was full of menacing robots, speed ramps and ridable waterfalls. Sonic's moves are pretty similar to those in the other 3D Sonic titles; for example, you can jump in the air and then jump again to make short work of the robots, or bounce off the robots to execute a combo also.
Rather than go through one linear path, it appears that the game will offer quite a few different ways to travel. At the very beginning of the level we tried, if you jumped near the very beginning, then you could latch onto an eagle that took Sonic on a bit of a shortcut. There were always a few different ways you could go, which is refreshing. After using some ropes as a trampoline and dodging a few enemies, it was time for the next part of the level, which saw Sonic running away from enemies whilst trying to avoid pillars and jump the gaps. Due to the sensitive controls (that's what we're blaming anyway, and not our desperate lack of skill), we quickly died during this area, so it was time to move onto Silver's levels.
Silver's level is completely different. Rather than the lush green environment of Sonic's level, Silver's is surrounded by fire and some mechanical enemies that look pretty daunting. Silver actually uses telekinesis to attack enemies and to solve problems. To get to one of the areas above we had to use Silver's telekinesis powers to stack some boxes up, and whilst the telekinesis wasn't all that easy to control, the idea plainly has potential. Silver is also able to hover in the air for a little while, although it's only for a few seconds.
Whilst our playtime with Sonic the Hedgehog wasn't as comprehensive as we'd hoped, it definitely left us eager for more. Both of the levels looked great, although there were some frame rate issues when things heated up a little. It seems that Silver's levels will be more puzzle- and platform-based, whereas Sonic's will be focused on action. Either way, Sonic the Hedgehog certainly has the potential to be a return to form for the venerable franchise.